With the upcoming release of Windows 8.1 I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at what both Windows 8 and it’s update means for Java developers.
Windows 8 as a target platform
Perhaps unsurprisingly, writing Java applications for Windows 8 is exactly the same as for Windows 7, Vista, OS X or any other operating system. The old Sun slogan of Write Once, Run Anywhere applies – as does it’s less official companion, Write Once, Debug Everywhere. However, I’ve seen no more issues with cross-platform compatibility in Windows 8 than in earlier versions of Windows, and far less than I’ve seen in OS X.
Windows 8 as a development platform
Perhaps the first thing most developers will want to know about is speed, and in this case they won’t be disappointed – I’ve seen a few articles comparing the speed of Windows 7 and 8, and they all seem to agree that it’s an improvement. Start-up time has improved particularly noticeably, with minor improvements across the board.
The interface changes have proved controversial – a tablet-style start screen has replaced the start menu. To be honest, this change has proven rather inconsequential for me as I have always just hit the start key on my keyboard and typed what I want to launch anyway, which still leads to the same conclusion. Some of my colleagues and I have experimented with IObit’s Start Menu 8, but I found it a little unstable and quickly concluded that I didn’t need it.
Many developers like using multiple monitors. (Personally I’ve seen the need less since larger monitors became more standard and Windows 7 introduced the ‘snap’ tool.) They’ll be pleased to hear that Windows 8 now allows you to have a task bar on each screen, which can display either all of your open applications or just those on that screen. Apparently more changes are coming to multiple monitor set-ups in 8.1, including fixes for screens with different DPIs and improvements to the way apps are handled.
While the lack of support for Java apps is disappointing and the user interface changes can take a while to adjust to, Windows 8 has no new challenges for Java development and serves as a solid system to develop on. While it seems most of the improvements coming in Windows 8.1 seem to relate to how apps are handled, which is probably of little interest to most Java developers, it also offers a number of small improvements which reportedly improve the overall experience. Since it will be free to existing Windows 8 users when it launches later this year, I’ll be sure to take a look.